Golden Business Ideas

Better Bargaining—With Friends

Negotiating with friends can be more difficult than dealing with strangers. Friends are often in a somewhat awkward position—after all, friends don’t take advantage of each other.

One of the biggest dangers is not that negotiations can break down, with the two sides agreeing to disagree, but that a heated discussion can sour a friendship. That usually occurs when either side feels friendship should be an influential factor in the negotiating process.

So follow this rule: Never let friendship influence your negotiating strategies.

Before beginning a formal negotiation, consider holding an informal prenegotiating session where you set guidelines for the talks. For example, if you’re negotiating price discounts, consider the discounts being offered to other businesses and use that information as a standard. This gives you a neutral starting point.

What happens when you reach a deadlock—when neither side is willing to move?

That’s the time to ask the other party for advice on how to get the negotiations back on track. That may sound nave, but in fact such a move disarms the other party and sends a powerful message: “I’m open, I’m listening, I want a win-win deal, and we’re still friends.” That simple step may be enough to put the negotiations back on track.

If it doesn’t work, suggest bringing in a third party who is savvy about what you’re negotiating.

And if you’re faced with the need to challenge your friend on the facts, don’t blurt out, “You’re wrong.” Instead, say something like, “Have you considered this information from our point of view?” Or, “I understand what you’re saying, but your (lawyer, accountant, sales manager) may have misinformed you about these facts.”

In today’s e-business environment, where much of business-to-business selling and buying are done in a virtual marketplace, bargaining skills are being lost. There is less face-to-face negotiation; an increasing amount of business is conducted through mechanical e-mail bidding. That’s a shame because to be an effective negotiator requires continual practice. So seek opportunities to hone your skills.

E-mail vs. Snail Mail

If you haven’t already done it, set up an e-mail directory of all your suppliers, customers, vendors and other business associates. Internet communication not only saves you money, it’s faster and tends to be more responsive.

Cut Turnover, Hire Less

With the labor market so tight, smart employers are focusing on cutting staff turnover. In the long run it’s far cheaper to keep an experienced worker than to recruit and then train a new employee. Steps to take:

  • Train for growth. If you don’t already have a training program, develop one. If you do, be sure it’s working. An effective program is designed to expand workers’ skills, giving each an opportunity for career advancement. Important: The program should give a clear message that no job is a dead end.
  • Special assignments. Boredom is a “killer”—especially for the bright, ambitious underused employee. To address that problem, develop special assignments slightly outside or beyond an employee’s current job. If an employee succeeds, consider putting him or her on a faster career track. If the worker does especially well, consider even more challenging future special assignments.
An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


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